Lewis Hamilton survived Q2 drama that was compounded by Sebastian Vettel’s crash to seal pole position for the Russian GP ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
The Ferrari driver crashed on a hot lap in Q2, bringing out the red flags while Hamilton, who had his previous lap time deleted for exceeding track limits, was trying to get his first time of the session.
Pitting under the red flag, he was forced to swap his medium tyres for soft rubber meaning he will start on the red Pirellis with Bottas and Max Verstappen on the mediums.
He put the drama behind him to grab pole position ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.
Dark clouds and track limits set the tone for qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix, the former making life just a little easier as the track temperature fell from FP3’s 40’C to 34’C.
The latter, though, made life a lot more difficult with several drivers losing lap times in Q1 including Hamilton and Romain Grosjean, twice.
But such was the pace of the Mercedes that Hamilton didn’t have to pit for fresh tyres before popping up into second, 0.3s down on Valtteri Bottas.
Grosjean wasn’t as fortunate. Although he did set a legit time, he dropped down the order as the final few drivers completed their hot laps.
Grosjean went out along with Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi and Kimi Raikkonen, who had a spin down at Turn 2 and aborted his lap.
George Russell was the one who booted Grosjean out of qualifying as he once again made it through the second segment.
George Russell makes it through to Q2 for the sixth time in 2020 💪
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 26, 2020
Making a mass exit out of the pits at the start of Q2 as a few drops of rain began to fall, Esteban Ocon was warned by Renault that “there will be some sort of traffic jam at the end of the lap”.
Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen opted for mediums with Hamilton banging in a 1:32.0 to go a second quicker than Bottas. The time, though, was deleted for exceeding the track limits at Turn 18.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 26, 2020
Hamilton, without a time on the board, returned to the pits for a fresh set of medium tyres with Bottas, only two-tenths ahead of P11 after running wide, also grabbed fresh tyres for another attempt.
Daniel Ricciardo went quickest with a 1:32.2, ahead of Bottas, who improved on his second run. Hamilton was on course to beat his team-mate’s time only for the red flags to come out when Sebastian Vettel crashed his Ferrari.
The German took a bit too much kerb at Turn 4, lost the back end of his SF1000 and spun into the barrier.
“I shunted and I’m OK,” the German told Ferrari before climbing out of his car, picking up his rear wing and putting it in the cockpit for the journey back to the pits.
Charles Leclerc was immediately behind Vettel and almost collected him. “Oh my god. That was very, very close.”
That was too close 😨 pic.twitter.com/GnZKpnhISp
— Ky (@FiftyBucksss) September 26, 2020
The drivers lined up at the end of the pit lane for the final 2m15 with Hamilton, down in 15th place without a lap time, eighth in the queue and on a set of soft tyres. Hamilton’s drama continued as he ran off the track on his out-lap but he still managed to cross the line in time and jump up to P4 on his flying lap.
Out went: Leclerc, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, who had an issue with his RP20, Russell and Vettel.
Putting his Q2 drama behind him, Hamilton was back up to speed and back in unbeatable form at the start of Q3. The Brit put in a 1:31.391 to sit 0.8s ahead of Bottas with Verstappen in his traditional third, a further two-tenths down.
Bottas was the first of the Mercedes team-mates to put in his second run but while he closed the gap, he wasn’t able to challenge. A mistake early in his lap as he clipped the kerb meant he could only improve to a 1:31.956.
Hamilton was on pole but still opted to finish his hot lap, improving his time to a 1:31.304 with a new track record.
Verstappen made the most of Bottas’ mistake, taking second off the Finn, half a second down on Hamilton and a tenth up on Bottas.
Sergio Perez qualified fourth ahead of Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz while Ocon, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon completed the top ten.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.304
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.563s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.652s
4 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1.013s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1.060s
6 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.246
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 1.320s
8 Lando Norris McLaren 1.543
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.696s
10 Alex Albon Red Bull 1.704s
11 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:33.239
12 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 1:33.249
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:33.365
14 George Russell Williams 1:33.583
15 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.609
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:34.592
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1:34.594
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:34.681
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:35.066
20 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1:35.267
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